6/6/2017Grand Jury Hits Oxnard, California Over Short Yellow Times
Ventura County, California Grand Jury catches Oxnard exploiting short yellow times to issue red light camera tickets.
Red light cameras in Oxnard, California have been exploiting illegally short yellow times, according to a report issued by the Ventura County Grand Jury last week. The report documented the engineering shortcomings as just one of several examples of mismanagement in one of the Golden State's oldest surviving photo ticketing programs.
The grand jury noted that Oxnard failed to increase the yellow times at red light camera locations over two years since the state ordered an increase. At Rose Avenue and Gonzales Road, the yellow is 4.6 seconds when it should be 5.0 seconds. At Saviers Road and Channel Island Boulevard as well as Victoria Avenue and Wooley Road, the yellow times are 0.2 seconds short. Fifth Street and Ventura Road is off by a tenth of a second -- enough to produce a big increase in the number of tickets issued. The grand jury's concern was primarily financial.
"The duration of the yellow light at four red light camera intersections, as reported by the city, is not in conformance with the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices," the jurors concluded. "Even small inaccuracies in yellow light durations pose a potential financial liability to the city as citations could be dismissed."
Last year, 4131 red light camera tickets worth $2 million were issued, but the city has still found a way to turn the program into a money loser. Oxnard's deal with Redflex Traffic Systems was designed to get around a state law banning per-ticket compensation with a "cost neutrality" arrangement. Oxnard pays its monthly share of the $500 photo tickets to the scandal-plagued Australian vendor up to a total of $30,500 per month, after which the city begins to profit. Instead, Redflex kept all of the city's share because monthly revenue ranged from $17,794 to $32,254 over the last two years.
Worse, the city failed to clarify in its deal what happens with the "shortfall" created by the cost neutrality cause. Since 2008, the average $7976 monthly shortfall added up to $806,460.
"The cost neutrality clause is vague and does not make it clear if the city is required to pay any accrued balance at the end of the contract period," the grand jury concluded. "If the city does not prevail in its interpretation of the clause, the city may be exposed to a significant financial liability... The fact that an $806,460 balance was allowed to accrue over nine years, despite multiple contract extensions, suggests the city has not employed proper oversight in regards to the red light camera program."
The grand jury is a group of about two dozen individuals who serve for a year with both criminal trial duties and the ability to investigate county business. The Ventura County Grand Jury caught the city of Ventura exploiting short yellows in 2009 (view report).
While Oxnard has kept its camera program, most cities have since dropped them, including: Belmont, Bell Gardens, Berkeley, Burlingame, Cerritos, Compton, Corona, Costa Mesa, Cupertino, El Cajon, Davis, El Monte, Escondido, Emeryville, Fairfield, Fresno, Fullerton, Gardena, Glendale, Grand Terrace, Hayward, Highland, Indian Wells, Irvine, Laguna Woods, Lancaster, Loma Linda, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Marysville, Maywood, Montclair, Moreno Valley, Napa, Oakland, Paramount, Pasadena, Poway, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Redwood City, Rocklin, Roseville, Rowland Heights, San Bernardino, San Carlos, San Diego, San Jose (photo radar), San Juan Capistrano, Santa Fe Springs, Santa Maria, Santa Rosa, South Gate, Stockton, Union City, Vista Upland, Walnut, Whittier, Yuba City and Yucaipa. The city councils of Laguna Niguel and Orange passed ordinances banning cameras in 2011. Residents of Anaheim, Murrieta and Newport Beach voted to ban red light cameras at the ballot box.
A copy of the report is available in a 1mb PDF file at the source link below.